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30 Days of Oven-Free Cooking

Summertime menu planning can be a hassle! You need a variety of delicious dishes that will keep the kitchen cool and your family happy. So often, you find yourself stuck in a dinnertime rut! You plan the same meals each week, your eyes glazing over when the kids ask, “What’s for dinner?”

We have the solution to set you free from your stifling menu plans! Keep reading to find one month of oven-free meals, including Saturday morning pancakes and Sunday brunch! Enjoy crisp and refreshing salads, grilled sandwiches, juicy burgers, and hearty Sunday suppers.

Use some or all of these ideas to give variety to your monthly menu without turning on the oven once. Plus, find tips for keeping your kitchen cool throughout the summer.

Keep Your Cool in the Kitchen

1. Make use of countertop appliances.

Plan meals that you can prepare in your rice cooker, waffle maker, slow cooker, toaster oven, and microwave. These appliances do not put off as much heat as the oven. Be creative in how you use them.

For example, instead of making breakfast waffles, use your waffle maker to prepare corn waffles and top them with taco meat, beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and cheese.

Use your toaster oven to make personal-size pizzas on a pita crust. Prepare a pot roast for Sunday dinner in your slow cooker. Experiment and learn new ways to prepare your favorite dishes using these alternative appliances.

2. Fire up the backyard grill.

From pizza to burgers to barbecue chicken, there are plenty of mouth-watering dishes that can be made on your grill. The best part is that the heat stays outside! Give your grill a thorough cleaning at the beginning of the season and take a few minutes to scrub off any food debris each time you use it.

You can even buy special pans to cook pasta or sauté vegetables on your grill. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, don’t worry. Use a countertop grill or grill pan on your stove top.

3. Make plenty of fresh green salads.

Salads are quick and easy to prepare. Often the only item that needs to be cooked is the protein you add to make your salad a main dish. Top your favorite greens and veggies with store-bought fried chicken, slices of leftover roast beef, pre-cooked ham, canned beans, nuts, or deli meats.

Prepare whole grain pasta, quinoa, couscous, or hard-boiled eggs to add vegetarian protein to a simple green salad. Give your salad a robust flavor with dried berries, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and capers.

Add crunch and texture with crispy onions, seeds, seasoned croutons, or fried noodles.

4. Prepare meals you do not have to cook.

Look for recipes that do not require any cooking or let the grocery store do the cooking for you. Purchase pre-cooked proteins, (like deli meats, roasted chicken, or hard boil-eggs), and baked goods (like ciabatta bread, muffins, and submarine buns).

Many no-cook dishes come together quickly, for a fast and simple weeknight dinner. Prepare submarine sandwiches and chips; tomato and onion salad with mozzarella cheese and ciabatta bread; deli-style sandwich wraps with a fruit salad; cold soup with crackers and a side salad; or yogurt parfaits with cashews and a store-bought muffin.

5. Turn the burner off early.

When your dish is almost done cooking on the stovetop, turn off the burner. Most of the time there is enough heat trapped in the pot or pan you are using to finish cooking your food.

6. Put a lid on it.

Make the most use of the heat in your pots and pans by covering them with a lid. Heat will be kept in the pot instead of escaping into the kitchen. You will stay cool, and your dinner will cook faster as you make the most efficient use of your stovetop heat.

7. Don’t add too much liquid.

For most recipes, at least some of the liquid you add to your dish will have to be cooked out. Follow your recipe guidelines and add the appropriate amount of liquid, especially for dishes like rice and sauces. However, be careful not to add too much or your dish will take longer to cook through and thicken.

When preparing water that needs to come to a boil, only use as much as you really need. Don’t put a huge pot of water on the stove if you are making pasta for two. Putting too much water on to boil will cause your kitchen to be hotter than it has to be and make your meal take longer to cook as you are wasting time and energy heating up the extra water.

8. Get everything ready.

Chop all of your fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses. Measure out your ingredients. Have everything ready to go before you heat up your pots, pans, or countertop appliances. Since all of your ingredients are already prepared to go into the pot, you won’t waste energy and heat while you run back and forth to the pantry or fridge.

9. Use a pot that is the right size for your burner.

Choose a pot or pan that is the same size as the burner on your stovetop. If you can see part of the burner, the heat it generated by the burner is being released into your kitchen instead of cooking your meal.

*10. Make a double-batch. *

Prepare twice the amount you need of your favorite oven-free dishes and store the extra meal in the fridge or freezer for a quick weeknight dinner or workday lunch.

11. Have ice cream for dinner!

Ice cream sundaes or ice cream cones are the perfect oven-free dinner! Set out your favorite toppings and make an ice cream sundae bar to enjoy with your family. While it is best to not eat ice cream for dinner all of the time, it is fun for an occasional treat!

The Recipes:

Week One:

Meatless Monday: Philly Cheese Steak-less Sandwiches

Taco Tuesday: Asian Beef Tacos

Salad Wednesday: Asparagus and Mixed Baby Greens Salad

Sandwich Thursday: Muffelatta Sandwich

Pizza Friday: Grilled Tomato Mozzarella Pizza with Basil

Saturday Morning Pancakes: Oatmeal and Berry Pancakes

Burger Saturday: BBQ Cheeseburgers

Sunday Brunch: Potato Ham and Herb Omelette

Slow Cooker Sunday Dinner: Crock Pot Barbecued Beef Brisket

Week Two:

Meatless Monday: Artichoke Tortellini Pasta Salad

Taco Tuesday: Taco Bar

Salad Wednesday: Roasted Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes with Arugula, Penne, and Goat Cheese Salad

Sandwich Thursday: Special Club Sandwich

Pizza Friday: Grilled Garden Vegetables Pizza

Saturday Morning Pancakes: Breakfast Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Burger Saturday: Bistro Cheeseburger

Sunday Brunch: Almond Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

Slow Cooker Sunday Dinner: Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Week Three:

Meatless Monday: Vegetable Fried Rice

Taco Tuesday: Mahi Mahi Tacos

Salad Wednesday: Quinoa and Veggie Salad with Apples, Dried Berries, Walnuts and Cheddar

Sandwich Thursday: Texas Sloppy Joes

Pizza Friday: Grilled Two Cheeses and Summer Squash Pizza

Saturday Morning Pancakes: Double Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Burger Saturday: Southwestern Burgers

Sunday Brunch: Crepes with Strawberry Sauce

Slow Cooker Sunday Dinner: Crock Pot Beef Bourguignon

Week Four:

Meatless Monday: Creamy Asparagus Pasta

Taco Tuesday: Veggie Taco Salad

Salad Wednesday: Cobb Salad

Sandwich Thursday: Pizza Grilled Cheese

Pizza Friday: Cheesy Black Bean, Roasted Pepper, Tomato and Jalapeno Pizza

Saturday Morning Pancakes: Buttermilk Whole Wheat Pancakes with Maple Nut Topping

Burger Saturday: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Sunday Brunch: Buttermilk Waffles with Cherry Almond Sauce

Slow Cooker Sunday Dinner: Crock Pot Chicken and Rice


Image courtesy of John Kasawa /